Making and manipulating


In the latter stages of the 2005 election campaign two stories broke.

One was the pledge card and the Labour party’s illegal spending of public funds on its campaign.

The other was brochures published by the Exclusive Brethren criticising the Green Party.

The brochures, which were published legally,  got all the attention and almost certainly influenced the outcome of the election.

The pledge card rort got almost none at the time.

In the latter stages of this election campaign two issues have broken.

One is the vandalism of National’s hoardings by a now former member of the Green Party.

The other is the contents of a conversation which was illegally recorded.

Which is getting almost all the attention?

It’s not the vandalism which was not just a random act by a few. It was well organised, well funded action by many.

The recording might or might not have been made accidently. It was no accident it was passed to the Herald on Sunday and TV3 and it was no accident that at least some of what was recorded was passed on to a would-be MP who’s getting the attention he craves on the back of it.

If people want to know what was said in the conversation it’s only because there’s been such a fuss made of it. Had the media accepted it was illegally recorded and that it would be breaking the law to publish it without permission the story would have died days ago.

Meanwhile, why are they not asking every Green MP and office holder what they knew about the vandalism of National’s hoardings? Why aren’t they searching for other people who were behind it the way they sought, and found, the people behind the anti-Green brochures? Have they thought to ask Jolyon White about the ethics of using his role in the church to pose as a neutral MC for candidates’ meetings?

Why aren’t they concentrating on matters of real importance – the international economy and the impact that will ahve on us or progress made towards free trade this week, for instance?

In 2005 the media at best made an error of judgement in choosing to pursue one story and virtually ignore another and they are doing that again now.

The media are supposed to report the news not make it and they are certainly not supposed to manipulate it.

By choosing to focus on the conversation and giving very little attention to the vandalism they are both making news and manipulating it.

Trust Busters


Apropos of the previous post . . .

Trust me – they need our help


The election has been announced and Helen Clark says it will be about trust.

There are several problems with that, Keeping Stock lists some here  and another is she hasn’t trusted us with any Labour Party policy yet.

She’s obviously been too busy with other things to worry about minor details like telling us what she’ll do if we’re silly enough to let Winston Peters and her loose with the reins of government again so I think we should help her with some policy ideas.

How about electoral law which has a chilling effect on democracy?

Politics before principle?

Retrospective legislation to make stealing from the tax payer for political purposes legal?

A see no, hear no, speak no evil approach to ministerial misdeeds?

A knowledge wave that means waving goodbye to our skilled workers?

Oh, silly me, that’s what she gave us this term although none were on the pledge card we paid for.

So what will she offer to tempt the voters this time and what won’t she tell us about but intend to do?

Your ideas are welcome – and the best one will get the biggest laugh.

Keeping half the promise


Another reminder this morning that Labour has kept only half the 1999 pledge card promise to take more tax and fix health.

Hard-drug addicts are lapsing into lives of crime and prostitution while waiting up to eight months to access “poorly resourced and overburdened” treatment programmes, experts say.


A report from the National Addiction Centre, obtained exclusively by The Press, estimates that crime by opiate addicts awaiting treatment costs the country $286 million a year.

A 12-month course of addiction treatment with methadone costs about $5000.

Addiction doesn’t just have an economic cost, it has a very high social cost for the addicts, their families and the vicitms of crimes they commit to get the money to feed their habits.

The full story is here.

We’re Paying For Budget Brochure


They just don’t learn do they? In spite of Labour’s contention the pledge card (remember the one they spent our money on illegally then changed the law to make it legal in retrospect?) was just a belt-way issue when it wasn’t they’re snubbing their noses at public opinion again – spending our money on their budget brochure.

Labour is dipping into taxpayers’ money to produce leaflets on the May Budget – publicity that is almost certainly election advertising under its new Electoral Finance Act and will have to be counted in its election expenses.

That means large sums of public money will again have gone towards a Labour election campaign. The cost of the leaflet may also have to be declared as a donation by Parliament to the Labour Party under the troublesome new law, which is not how Labour intended it to work.

Oh dear – they’re having problems with their own bad law.

The leaflet does not breach Parliament’s own spending laws because they have been liberalised and it does not breach the Electoral Finance Act because it is authorised. But there may be a post-election sting in it for Labour.

The party will almost certainly have to declare the leaflet in its election expenses return to the Electoral Commission and deduct its cost from its $2.4 million cap.

Wellington electoral law specialist Graeme Edgeler said last night the leaflet met the definition of election advertisement under the Electoral Finance Act.

“It doesn’t say vote Labour, but that is the clear implication.”

It had party colours, the Labour logo, and the party’s tax-cut promises this year and in the future. He did not believe it could be considered under the exception given to an MP producing material in their capacity as MP.

“This is a Labour Party promotional leaflet.”  It was “almost certainly” an election advertisement and as such should be declared in the party’s expenses.

And as such will almost certainly rile voters who also happen to be taxpayers who don’t like their money spent on political partys’ self-promotion.

Brash didn’t lie about EB pamphlets


In a candid interview, sensitively reported by Ruth Laugeson, Don Brash says he wishes he’d been a bit more radical when he led National.


The whole interview is worth reading, not least for the admission that the sad reality of politics is that what you believe to be right doesn’t always win elections.


In the print edition of the Sunday Start Times, but not on line, are Don’s answers to several questions. I was particularly interested in his response to the one about whether or not he knew about the Exclusive Brethren’s anti-Green election pamphlet: “The impression was that I lied to the public. I don’t think even looking aback and trying to recall the detail that I lied in any way at all in that area.”


This was a case where the media, aided by several other political parties got it wrong. The TV footage where Rod Donald thrust the pamphlet at Don and asked if he knew about it has been screened several times and each time his body language echoes what he says – he doesn’t know anything about it. I am certain he was telling the truth at the time and only later did he join the dots between that pamphlet and an earlier meeting with the EB. I accept that once he’d made the connection he didn’t handle it well but it’s not easy to explain something like this in a 20 second sound-bite especially if you feel you’re not in a position to speak about a conversation held in private.


Owen McShane wrote in the NBR after the 2005 election (I can’t find it on line) that he’d been in a similar position because the Greens had come to him as a consultant and spoken about their plans but when the pamphlets first surfaced he didn’t make the connection. When he began to suspect they might be behind the campaign, client confidentiality meant he wasn’t in a position to say anything publicly until the Brethren admitted their involvement.


At the same time as Don was being accused of lying, other National MPs (Gerry Brownlee in particular) were accusing Labour of illegally spending taxpayers’ money on their pledge card. Had the latter got the media attention of the former, the election result might have been very different.

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